The year 2020 was touted to be a game-changer. Everyone around the world was excited, from companies planning marketing campaigns, the Instagram influencers and Olympic logo design teams! Indeed, the year has been a turning point, although in an unexpected manner. In my mind, this year shall forever be remembered as the year that propelled the long-awaited acceptance of the digital ecosystem in the country and coined it as the new normal.
The new normal has encompassed all-the young, the old, people across industries, sectors and geographical boundaries. The adoption of digital technology has been varied across different segments of the Indian economy. Now, we see consumer behaviour changing with people eagerly embracing the digital ecosystem – be it for ordering groceries or purchasing insurance online.
Previously considered one of the ‘traditional’ sectors, life insurance has not only adopted the digital ecosystem but also created a whole new gamut of offerings for customers.
The major challenge is not low awareness but low acceptance levels. As Indians, we do not like to think about our own mortality. Grim as it may sound, the pandemic brought forth the uncertainties of life and increased the sense of insecurity in the minds of people. This has resulted in heightened awareness about the need for insurance products.
The most sought after products are those that offer protection and substantial cover for a nominal price. We observe signs of growth in traditional protection products and this seems to increase each passing day. Customers are also increasingly conscious about retaining their policies in-force and have started to look at it as a functional investment, rather than as a tax-saving tool.
The Indian life insurance sector has successfully reinvented itself and adapted to this digital progression. After a small dip at the beginning, the industry has bounced back in the second quarter. Insurance companies have been quick to adapt/transit to the digital-enabled sales process.
The entire journey of taking a new insurance policy has gone through a sea-change with digital interventions that cover the end-to-end process. Insurers can quickly meet customer requirements and provide them with better service experience, besides making more efficient use of the sales force.
Intermediaries like agents, partners and partner banks have moved on to digital and mobile-enabled platforms for swift onboarding, making the entire online customer experience beneficial and seamless in this era of social distancing.
Insurers are accelerating their digital journey through direct purchase, making it easy for new customers to easily buy products through websites or collaborative portals. Technology has made premium payments, renewals and new purchases into a streamlined process. Use of tools like emails and WhatsApp are routine.
Keeping in mind the current disinclination of customers to go to crowded places, especially hospitals, the underwriting process has been revamped to do away with physical medical examination in some of the cases, substituting it with tele and video medicals. Even claims, maturity and benefit payouts are now being accepted online.
The digital journey may have just begun. Though we are unsure how the pandemic will play out in the future, I think we are on the right path. This is the time for the industry to work together and regard the customers’ needs as paramount. The future of the life insurance sector looks strong and customers should feel reassured in the digital prospects of the ‘new normal’.
The author is MD & CEO, Exide Life Insurance